SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Lawrence Technological University will grant an associate’s degree to Gerry Haliburda of Dearborn on May 6 – a reward for years of study back in the 1950s, and a lifetime of commitment to his family, his business and his faith.
Haliburda was born in his parents’ home on Detroit’s west side in 1936, and attended St. Lawrence elementary school and Cathedral Central High School in Detroit. After his 1954 high school graduation, he spent three years in Dayton, Ohio, taking classes at the University of Dayton. He would return home in 1957, and took classes at what was then the Lawrence Institute of Technology in 1959, 1960 and 1961. The classes covered a variety of technical subjects – mathematics, physics, tooling design, fluid mechanics, and statistics. “I took classes at LTU to get handier and to be better able to help my father out with the family business,” Haliburda said.
Haliburda worked most of his life for that family business, Midway Sports & Entertainment, an outdoor fun park and golf driving range on Van Born Road in Taylor. Haliburda’s father established the business in 1951 as a golf driving range on what had been a soybean farm. Batting cages, trampolines and a Caribbean-themed miniature golf course were added in the 1960s, and by the 1980s, bumper cars and go-karts were added as well. Haliburda worked most of his life there, having taken over the family business when his father died in 1968. He would raise his four children in the business before selling it in 2011.
Haliburda said he’s driven past Lawrence Tech “probably 1,000 times” in his life, always wondering whether his education there “ever amounted to a degree. One of these days, I said, I’m going to stop by there and see what they can give me.” Finally, late last fall, he stopped in, and after visiting with officials of the Admissions Office and Registrar’s Office, heard the good news – his classes at Dayton and LTU add up to an Associate of Science degree in General Studies. Haliburda’s reaction? “Oh, my gosh, I’m so lucky.”
A man of deep religious faith, Haliburda has handed out vials of holy water, rosaries, and scapulars – small pieces of cloth on a string, worn over the shoulders – to thousands of people he has met over the years. He also makes frequent charitable donations, including to Lawrence Tech. Why? “I just love doing things to help people out,” he said. “I realize I’m lucky to be here.”